Despite some companies walking back their telecommuting policies, it can absolutely work.
There’s much to be said about the present state of telecommuting. While a recent report shows that the work-from-wherever trend has increased by 115 percent worldwide from 2005 to 2015, there’s been some notable high-profile fumbling in recent months. And none more publicized than IBM rescinding its touted work-form-home program after being an early and broad-scale adopter.
The move was allegedly made in an effort to reignite in-person collaboration. But their “come back to work or find a new job” approach took many by surprise, considering their huge workforce is comprised of 40 percent of employees who work in non-traditional setups. This was also coming off 20 straight quarters of losses, so the optics were essentially that they had to do something.
And yet despite IBM apparently eating a bit of crow, in a recent article published on Fast Company, Jay Friedman, COO of marketing agency Goodway Group, put forward a strong defense of remote work setups, and large-scale ones at that.
With 400 employees, Friedman insists it’s not the notion of telecommuting itself that is flawed, but a failure to establish an appropriate and supportive work culture. Here are some of his key points:
Let everyone in on the perk.
Giving the freedom to some employees but not all can create resentment. Having the ability to do even small things like cook at home and spend time with your family (even if it’s only peripheral, because you are working, aren’t you?) goes a really long way in terms of personal happiness.
But in order to do that, you have to hire the right kind of people so you know the work will get done.
Most people know whether they’re the type that gets a lot done in solitude or thrive better in a group environment. Goodway uses the Wonderlic Personnel Test to determine whether a candidate possesses “achievement striving,” “dependability,” and “efficiency” qualities, which can indicate they’ll be a good work-from-home candidate. But that doesn’t mean they won’t hire people who prefer a more office-like setting; employees are provided passes to co-working spaces like WeWork.
Set up processes like your career depends on it (because it really does).
A work-from-setup—especially on a large scale—relies heavily on processes and documenting conversations and tasks so that everyone’s on the same page and has something to refer back to.
Have awesome, company-wide, in-person events every so often.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder, etc. If you don’t see your work fam all the time, it’ll be all the sweeter when you do get to hang at a company retreat and you’ll be excited to catch up on life and work.
And his last, perhaps most difficult thing for employers to commit to: You gotta go all in. “One of the main reasons companies screw up while trying to create flexible work environments is because they do it halfway (two days a week, for instance) or as an exception for some and not all,” he says. “The ‘right mix’ is that there is no mix that’s right: You’ve got to go all in and commit to a fully remote culture.”